Sunday, April 9, 2006

CEI' LE VEI


Thank you all for your well wishes after my brother-in-law passed away Friday morning. My husband was blessed to have been with him as he died. We still don't know who called the police dept. here to have them come out and deliver the message of his brother being in the hospital last Tuesday. But I know the Lord had a hand in it. And I'm thankful that Tommy was able to be at his brother's side the last few days of Johnny's life. Tommy said that there was such superstition coming from his siblings the last day. Words from his sister-in-law saying that Johnny won't "go on" because her husband, his brother, Russell, wouldn't tell him "goodbye". Tommy said that at the last moments of Johnny's life, during the struggles a body goes through before dying, that his sisters were standing in the corner of the room and wouldn't go near the bed. Russell was on one side, holding Johnny's hand as his body struggled, his eyes jerking. And Tommy went up to the other side of the bed, took Johnny's hand in his, stroked his forehead and sang "Jesus Loves Me" to him. He said that Johnny instantly stilled and quieted and took a final exhale. Tommy was emotional telling me this. I could tell it meant a lot to him to have been there and to see how Jesus could calm a dying soul.

Today, Sunday, we went to the Viewing/Visitation at the funeral home. When we got there Johnny's sister Betty was standing at the casket with her brother Russell and her sister-in-law. Betty was weeping. As they went to sit down on a nearby sofa, I stepped up to Johnny's casket to see him. He looked peaceful. I stepped over to Betty, said hello to sister-in-law Connie, and then hugged Betty telling her how sorry I was. She put her arm around my neck, holding me close and sobbed into my shoulder. I just let her cry. She would have the hardest time getting through this loss since she and her brother lived together all his life along with their mother until she passed away 3 years ago. As she sobbed into my shoulder, and time was passing, I remember thinking to myself to let her decide when to end the hug, not to pull away too soon. I know that might sound funny, but there has been a time or two in some grief I was under that I was in the embrace of someone and I was sobbing, just holding on to the person. And I remember a pulling away from me, a pulling away before I was ready to let go, a pulling away that told me "that's enough crying, now pull yourself together". And it made me uncomfortable. So as Betty clung to me, I was mindful to let her set the pace. Her sobs quietened, even though she still clung to me. Eventually, as I loosened my grip to stroke her hair, she loosened her grip and the embrace ended. Then I told her brother Russell sitting next to her that I was sorry and gave him a hug, telling him I knew they would miss Johnny a lot.

And the "politeness" in the air with BIL and his wife was getting stifling. After Tommy's other sister arrived with her children and their children, Tommy had had about enough. He said he felt like an outsider at his own brother's funeral. Noone looking him in the eye or speaking to him, unless he spoke first. I think he was appalled at the level of animosity he felt coming through the children and especially the grandchildren - what would they have to be angry at Tommy about? He has no clue, nor do I, what his family is upset with him about (remember, none of them admitted to calling the police dept. here to tell him that his brother Johnny was in the hospital -- not when Johnny had a kidney removed in February because of a tumor on it, and not when Johnny was admitted to the hospital Sunday for congestive heart failure. And Tommy says that they actually looked SURPRISED when he walked into the hospital room Tuesday!)

There was a falling out 3 years ago at Johnny's birthday party at his home, which happened to be 3 months after their mother passed away. I thought it was over my correcting a nephew who was misbehaving. But surely it was more than that. And considering everyone's reaction at the time of the event 3 years ago, there was more brewing under the surface than that incident. Something was eating at them about us, but they have never said what. Tommy and I have said apologies to them about that occasion but still noone will share what was eating them then and what is still going on with them now. I'm of the mind-set that life is too short to hold grudges. If they have a problem and can't talk to us about it, 'cause it's obviously something about us, then so be it. We will go on, though. It's just sad what time is lost and wasted between family.

Johnny will be in his grave tomorrow. He will never utter another word. A word of complaint nor a word of reconciliation. Why do the other siblings not see that and make use of their own remaining days? Johnny was only 41. None of us are guaranteed to live to be an old man or old woman. What do we want to fill up our remaining years with? Bitter words and grudges? Or apologies and forgiveness? We all must decide. I apologized 3 years ago. Tommy has tried to reconcile months after the incident with phone calls and trying to have his siblings tell him what the problem was/is. But perhaps in some families there will always be some family drama that someone must keep alive. Perhaps it makes the person feel alive, I don't know. I'm the type of person that I don't like to leave people upset with me. If I did something wrong or my intentions were misunderstood, I'm there ready to apologize and try to make it right. I suppose that's why I am unable to understand people who aren't of the nature to apologize and reconcile and move on.

Cei' le vie.

We didn't stay long at the funeral home. After his sister Judy came with her children and grandchildren, and the tension in the air thereafter (though I will say I didn't feel the tension with Judy that I did with Russell and Connie and Judy's children/grandchildren), Tommy had had enough. He told Betty later that he wouldn't be coming to the funeral tomorrow. That it had nothing to do with her or Johnny but to have the rest of the family shun him and his family was enough to let him know he wasn't going to be there. He said he was there when Johnny died, saw him today in his casket, and that was enough for him. That unless Betty herself wanted him to be there, he'd rather just stay away tomorrow. She was fine with that. I just hope Tommy won't regret it later. I don't think he will. He spent 3 days with Johnny at the end of Johnny's life. He sung to him as he died. He viewed him at peace in his casket. It's enough for him.

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. Though it sounds cliche', I mean it from the heart...Love the ones you're with. Love your family. Even the ones that are so opposite, or odd, or contrary. Just LOVE them. Let "Love" be your priority for however many days you have left on this earth. Today may be the last day. Find ways to show love, to be loving, to be kind, to be helpful, to just say something nice to someone.

Let LOVE be the last thing you are doing when your last moment arrives...

Bye for now.

9 comments:

Lucy said...

As I grow older, Karla, I realize what you said at the end of your post is so so true....it's all about LOVE. My personal belief is that when we reach those pearly gates, God will not ask what religion were you or how many times you went to church...He will ask you if you LOVED!!!

kmckiernan said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way.

Netter said...

I'm glad your husband could be there for his brother. If only we could all spend those last moments with people we love.

What a horror story, the way the family gives you the cold shoulder. It must be so hard but the only way to deal with it is by taking the higher road...and it sounds like you are.

Stay strong, you are in my thoughts.

Lillian said...

The important thing is between yourself and Tommy you understand and support each other in this situation. That this diffcult issue is not affecting your personal relationship as husband and wife. You are already a winner in this for having a generous heart to apologise and forgive. The love of Jesus can be seen shining in your lives and this love will touch lives.

Kelly said...

I'm so sorry to read of the loss in your family.

Jennifer said...

Karla, I'm sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law Johnny. I think the story of Tommy being there when he died and singing to him is just beautiful and hopefully will be a cherished memory for you all. I agree with you about Love; it should be the motive behind all of our actions. The ones who are the hardest to love need it the most so we can always offer our prayers for them. Take care.

Jennifer said...

wow, that is so sad:( it's ashame the family can't move on even after the passing of a loved one and 3 years later. I'm so sorry for ya'lls loss.

Andi said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. It's a tough road.. I lost my mom in January unexpectedly and this hits home. So sorry for your loss.

emy said...

My condolences...your hubby is blessed to have been with his brother during his last journey.